From Oppenheimer Blue Diamond to a Da Vinci Painting: 10 Most Expensive Items Sold at an Auction
Going Under The Hammer
Auctions are usually full of drama with bidders spending astronomical sums on the most unique, absurd items as well as exhibits of historical significance. The thud of the auctioneer’s hammer has captured the attention of the world’s wealthiest for centuries. From precious objects, family heirlooms, and unique utilities to historic art, the auction business has consistently demonstrated that no price is too high in this world. The past decade has seen some record-shattering auction sales and here’s a list of some of the most expensive objects ever sold at public auctions.
1. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi: $450.3 Million
Da Vinci’s painting of a portrait of Christ was authenticated in 2008 as a lost masterpiece of the artist by some of the world’s greatest Da Vinci experts in London. Despite rumors of it being illegitimate, and possibly the work of Da Vinci’s imitator Bernadino Luini, it was unveiled for the first time in the National Gallery in 2011. Six years later, it was up for sale at Christie’s auction house where it became the most expensive painting ever auctioned selling for a stunning $450,300,000. It was bought for the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
2. Andy Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn portrait: $195 Million
Last year, Andy Warhol's "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn", a portrait of Marilyn Monroe set the record for the most expensive artwork to be sold by a US artist at an auction. The Christie's auction house revealed that the Warhol portrait was also the most expensive piece from the 20th century ever auctioned. The buyer, Larry Gagosian, the owner of the Gagosian Gallery chain of art galleries made the winning bid of $195 million for the painting.
3. Les Femmes D’alger (Version O) By Picasso: $179.4 Million
Considered the most influential artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso pioneered Cubism and conveyed three-dimensional spaces through his paintings. Painted by Picasso in 1955, the Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) was a piece born out of his rivalry with Henri Matisse. The vivid masterpiece was sold in 2015 for a whopping $179,400,000 at Christie’s amid cheers, applause, and gasps.
4. The Gigayacht: $168 Million
A truly unique feature, The Gigayacht holds the record for the most expensive item sold in an online auction as of 2023, according to a Forbes report. The 405-foot-long pleasure yacht features innumerable luxuries, including a movie theatre, a helipad, and 18 guest rooms and suites. Former owner of the football team Chelsea FC Roman Abramovich bought the yacht at an online auction setting a unique record.
5. Giacometti’s Pointing Man: $141 Million
The “L’homme au doigt” or “Pointing Man” is a celebrated artwork by Alberto Giacometti, who is one of the giants in the world of modern art. The life-sized sculpture of a thin man took him nine hours to make one fine night in 1947. Initially, it was meant as part of a larger composition, but Giacometti changed his mind, making it a complete work on its own. It was sold at Christie’s in New York and set the record for the most valuable sculpture ever sold at an auction. Billionaire Steven A. Cohen acquired it for $141,000,000.
6. Rabbit By Jeff Koons: $91 Million
Controversial artist Jeff Koons set the record for selling the most expensive work by a living artist with his shiny stainless steel sculpture of a rabbit created in 1986. The artwork was inspired by a child’s inflatable toy and has been revered by art critics as alluding to earlier pieces by Duchamp and Warhol. The sculpture was sold at Christie’s to Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for $91,100,000.
7. Portrait Of An Artist By David Hockney: $90.3 Million
David Hockney’s painting of two men and a swimming pool depicts the emotional life of gay men, a rare theme in those days. Hockney, an openly gay artist, is a talented painter and craftsman, who has been working since the 1960s. His painting was one of the most admired pieces at Mr. Hockney’s retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The painting was sold for $90,300,00 which at the time set the record for the most expensive work by a living artist.
8. Oppenheimer Blue Diamond: $57.6 Million
The Oppenheimer Blue diamond made history in 2016 when it became the most expensive jewel ever sold at an auction. Previously belonging to Philip Oppenheimer, it is the largest vivid blue diamond ever offered at auction, weighing 14.62 carats with a rectangular shape. While the bidding opened at 30 million Swiss francs it was ultimately sold for a whopping $57,600,000 to a phone bidder at Christie’s in Geneva.
9. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta: $48 Million
The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta is the “Holy Grail in collectible cars.” The Berlinetta was built to compete in the 3-litre class in the FIA World Championship in 1962 but it won the 1962 GT championship and has over 15 wins to its name. The car was also driven by Phil Hill, the first American Formula 1 World Champion. Ferrari in its history made only 36 GTOs and the Berlinetta is one of them. The car was auctioned in 2018 at Sotheby’s for $48,000,000.
10. Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 By Georgia O'Keeffe: $44 Million
The Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 was created by Georgia O’Keeffe, who is known for her signature style and magnified flowers. At the time, the painting set the record for the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction by a woman artist. The painting was sold at Sotheby’s which described it as “a strikingly bold and elegant representation of the artist’s mature intent and aesthetic.” While the purchase was primarily funded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton, she obtained it for the Crystal Bridges Museum for $44,400,000.
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